Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OSU Research Team Travels to Chile

Sandoval family farm in Chillan
I traveled to the International Hazelnut Congress in Temuco, Chile, in March, accompanied by key members of the Oregon State University hazelnut breeding program and 17 Oregon hazelnut growers.

The OSU breeding and genetics project members gave five presentations (Mehlenbacher, Smith and McCluskey) and two posters (Mehlenbacher, McCluskey and Rowley). OSU Yamhill County Extension’s Jeff Olsen also presented at the meetings. These meetings gave Oregon growers a chance to meet researchers working on hazelnuts from other countries, and to see OSU researchers interacting with their peers. People from three other countries joined the group part-time.   

Above & below: El Avellano nursery
In addition to the meetings, which were engaging for researchers and growers alike, we traveled north to south through much of Chile, stopping along the way for farmer-to-farmer exchanges with hazelnut growers and experiencing true cultural exchange and interaction. We saw cultivars, pollinizers, nurseries, propagation and harvest equipment, and met key players in the Chilean hazelnut industry. In Chill├ín, about 350 miles south of the capital Santiago, we observed researchers working to solve problems caused by the root-feeding larvae of beetles commonly called "burritos." All of these visits were well-structured with key people on hand to interpret the experience.  

We also visited the only Chilean nursery licensed to propagate OSU hazelnut releases, in Hijuelas, about an hour north of Santiago. We toured the Viveros Hijuelas operation, including the micropropagation facility and lath houses. They produce and sell four OSU cultivars and two pollinizers. 

SMR lab
The two weeks on the ground in Chile were long ones, but they were not all work. Growers had ample time to develop an appreciation for the culture and the people of Chile. The trip combined many asados (barbequed or roasted beef), lots of good wine and:   
· Hiking up Cerro San Cristobal—a hill providing impressive views of Santiago;
· Walking along the beach in Vina del Mar, and riding an ascensor up a hill in Valpariso;
· Seeing monkey puzzle trees in their native Andean habitat;
· Visiting Valdivia, a university town similar to Corvallis, and many other stops along the way;
· Seeing the Lake District near the border with Argentina;
· Climbing to the snowline of Mt. Osorno, a volcano in the Andes.

Everywhere, we enjoyed home-cooked meals and lots of one-on-one interactions. A 7.2 tremor shook the airport terminal while we were waiting to board the return flight. Chileans took it in stride, and the plane departed on time. 

Joanne and Wayne Chambers of Albany, Ore., joined our group. Wayne is a “retired” hazelnut grower who has been involved with the breeding program for decades. Since their retirement, the Chambers have enjoyed international travel. Joanne rated this “best trip they’d ever been on,” in large part due to the quality of the interpersonal experiences. Richard and Leonie Smith, who “trained in Shawn’s boot camp” of long days, left the group early for some personal travel in Chile and later reported that they really missed the camaraderie of the group while they were on their own.— Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher, Oregon State University

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